Official: Foreign kids may be a hazard | July 19
Florida has a bigger health concern
Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong's remarks that immigrant children might come to the state without basic medical screenings is a legitimate concern. We need to know what services these children might need and how to avoid the spread of disease if they are sick and living in the United States.
But if Florida is really worried about people in the state who are walking around without health screenings or treatment for any "illnesses they have," why has Florida denied funds offered by the U.S. government for the Medicaid expansion that would provide insurance to three quarters of a million Florida residents?
I would imagine that some of the estimated 764,000 nonelderly Floridians who fall in the "gap" between eligibility for regular Medicaid and access to insurance through the Affordable Care Act might also have untreated illnesses that could be spread to neighbors, co-workers, strangers, etc., and might also be in need of treatment.
A state can reverse the decision to not adopt the Medicaid expansion at any time, and I urge Florida legislators to rethink their decision so that all who live in the state have access to screenings and treatment. This is the way to create a truly healthy Florida.
Cecilia Yocum, Tampa
Get rid of the IRS and tax consumption July 17, letter
Transaction tax works best
Of course ridding ourselves of the IRS is a wonderful idea, and so is a consumption tax. But there is an even better, effortless and fair tax system: the automatic payment transactions tax, which automatically transfers a very small portion of every money transaction to the U.S. Treasury.
This eliminates the need for tax forms, deadlines, penalties, tax records, loopholes, exemptions, withholding or any of the IRS stuff. Earnings and profits would be untaxed, and only both sides of every transaction taxed at a flat, universal rate of 0.015 percent. No federal tax system makes more sense.
Bud Tritschler, Clearwater
Congress should be fired | July 18, letter
Money calls the tune
The idea of firing all of Congress and getting a new group in — with hopes of change for the better — is a pipe dream. As long as it's so expensive to run for office, big-money interests are willing to help, for a price. What must stop is the need for thousands of dollars, or more, to be elected and thus not be beholden to the big-money givers.
Paula Xenakis, Holiday
Senate holds up action
The Times published a letter claiming that the GOP is running a do-nothing Congress. I recently had a conversation with Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, at a veterans' fair. I was informed that the Republican-led House has passed more than 400 bills to date and they are being blocked by Democratic Leader Harry Reid in the Senate. Nugent told me 30 percent of these bills are bipartisan.
Robert Hicks, Hudson
U.S. points at Russia | July 19
Western policy failures
The irresponsible choice between the European Union (Germany) and Russia forced on a historically divided Ukraine by clueless EU bureaucrats and a U.S. national security team on Cold War autopilot produced chaos. When the United States immediately recognized the nationalist coup plotters in Kiev, the die was cast. The U.S. failure to acknowledge EU/U.S. complicity set Ukraine on a course of increasing conflict.
The other path was to urge Russian-Ukrainian participation in a customs union that would approach the EU together, and assurances that Ukraine would not be part of NATO. Instead, it's business as usual with as yet unforeseen consequences.
Walter Kitchenman, St. Petersburg
Utilities want to gut goals | July 20
Consumers left with the bill
Florida's utilities are asking at an upcoming meeting if they can slash the energy-saving programs that we, the consumers, are taking advantage of in order to save money.
They are talking of building new power plants. Those of us who live in Duke Energy country are already paying for a broken plant — one that they broke and could not fix and now will not be fixed, yet we still pay for.
The utilities see little merit in other energies. Solar energy? "Not reliable," yet I don't think the sun is going away anytime soon. Increased energy-efficient appliances and building practices? Not "cost effective." Again, whose side are they on?
The one statement I find truly insulting is the one that states that the hearing is closed and is "too technical." Do they think we cannot bring intelligent, thought-provoking ideas and issues to this debate that would add some insight to this matter, as we are the ones who are paying the bills?
As far as my checkbook has seen, the Public Service Commission has done nothing to help me save money when it comes to my utilities as it has always stood side by side with the utility companies.
Rosanne Paris, Palm Harbor
Voucher law faces challenge | July 17
Attack on unions unhelpful
I found incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner's reflexive attack of teacher unions troubling. When the Florida Education Association filed suit against SB 850 (voucher expansion), he said the unions may have given up on these children but he hadn't.
First, that's arguable. This Legislature has routinely slashed education budgets, attacked the teaching profession and made policy decisions — Common Core, high-stakes standardized testing, vouchers, charter schools and merit pay — that are not supported by evidence but which quite often benefit their campaign donors.
Also, unions don't establish budgets, create curriculums, hire or fire teachers. All they do is try to make sure that mutually agreed upon contract language — the rules — are enforced. Furthermore, because Florida is a right to work state, strikes — the unions' one truly effective tool — have been taken out of their toolbox.
The truth is we have serious issues in education, many caused by the policies Gardiner supports. Unfortunately, instead of trying to fix them Gardiner seems more interested in hyperbolic rhetoric and blaming one of the groups trying to do so.
Chris Guerrieri, Jacksonville